A ‘low-cost and effective’ solution to remove COVID-19 from the air using UV sanitisers will soon be used in hospitals, after a team led by engineers from the Institution of Mechanical Engineers developed a standard to regulate them for NHS use.
The ultraviolet sanitisers, which also have the potential to be used in schools, colleges, and other public buildings, have been shown in a hospital trial to be a low-cost and effective way to remove COVID-19 from the air. The team behind the recent work say the new standard will enable NHS Trusts to buy sanitisers ‘confident that they are fit for purpose’. A trial at a hospital in Cambridge has shown that when ultraviolet sanitisers were installed in two wards, they ‘deactivated’ the COVID-19 virus present in the air.
The standard was developed by a group of specialist engineers led by NHS Chief Engineer, Mike Ralph, who is a Fellow of both the IMechE and of IHEEM (the Institute of Healthcare Engineering and Estate Management). The team included members of the Institution’s Pandemic Infections Control Solutions team. Frank Mills FIMechE, a founder member of the Pandemic Infections Control Solutions Group, said: “The development of this standard will have a huge impact, as there is a major drive to improve air quality in healthcare facilities to combat COVID-19. Engineers have been at the forefront to ensure that the NHS has the guidance it needs to ensure that the sanitisers it buys are fit for purpose and effective in tackling the virus.”
Dr Alice Bunn, the IMechE’s Chief Executive, said: “Our mission is to improve the world through engineering, and this is a fantastic example of how engineering skills can make a difference to all our lives. Ensuring that the air indoors is as pathogen-free as possible will be a major step forward in reducing COVID-19 transmission in hospitals, as well as places like schools, colleges, and other public buildings.”
The team adds that ‘UV cleansers are a lower-cost and more flexible solution than HEPA filters traditionally used in healthcare’, and can be quickly and easily installed as ‘mobile’ units, and plugged into a nearby socket.
The standard was signed off on 20 December, 2021, and will be issued by the NHS as the standard for all NHS Trusts to use in procuring UV air cleaners. It also provides guidance for using the devices to reduce COVID-19 infections, as well as all other airborne pathogens.
Effective ventilation is also essential in schools to ensure teaching and learning in a productive environment. Members of the IMechE are involved in a trial at St. Teresa’s School, in Morden, Surrey where they have installed one UV unit into every classroom. The project is supported by an award sponsored by UKRI (Innovate UK) to investigate the use of air cleaners to mitigate COVID-19 transmission in offices, healthcare, and schools.
Justin Dachtler, head teacher at St. Teresa’s Primary School, Merton, said: “Classroom ventilation for clean air remains a priority for us to ensure good attention-span, and the health and wellbeing of our pupils and staff. The jargon and the science behind this can be confusing at first but, very quickly, well-chosen imagery and plain language make the benefits tangible not just to professionals in education, but to our children and parents too. The collaborative work and shared learning go far beyond the obvious benefits of clean air.”
For more information about the Cambridge hospital trial, see the following online article: https://www.medrxiv.org/content/10.1101/2021.09.16.21263684v1#